By Dr. Gary L. Deel, Ph.D., J.D.
Faculty Director, School of Business, American Military University
Note: This is the final article in a four-part series on the evolution of U.S. space policy. In this final part, we’ll discuss a few space policy goals that the current administration should promote and a few that it should abandon.
Two policy goals that the Trump administration should retain are the focus on Mars as a target for near-term manned missions and the transition to private-sector partnership for launch services. As discussed previously, Mars is one of the most viable alternative celestial bodies in our solar system for human habitation.
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Given our understanding that extinction-level events happen here on Earth with regularity, our species’ most critical focus should be to spread out. If we could establish a sustainable human colony on Mars, then at least catastrophic incidents here on Earth would not threaten the existence of human life.
Privatizing Space Launches
As for the privatization of space launches, nearly all of the data thus far points to the fact that private industry is able to provide. Space X with its reusable first-stage boosters, for example, has set a new standard for rocketry and drastically reduced launch costs. There is no reason that our national space program should not continue to take advantage of this kind of innovation.
Space Policy Goals the Trump Administration Should Avoid
Two policy goals for the Trump administration to avoid would be the plans to and mission agendas that project completion several decades out. In the 21st century world of nuclear-armed nations and tense foreign relations, making outer space into another potential battlefield would be an unforgivable mistake. All future space endeavors — by all nations — should be unambiguously peaceful in nature.
With respect to mission timelines, one of the biggest problems with NASA proposals is that the mission timelines generally stretch far beyond the presidential terms of the presidents who propose them, even for two-term presidents. When administrations change, policies change. As a result, the partially completed projects of the prior presidency are repeatedly scrubbed to make way for new proposals and ideas at a terrible cost to American taxpayers.
Space policies should, therefore, be realistic in scope and ideally planned in such a way that they can be completed within a decade or so, like the Gemini, Mercury, and Apollo missions of the 1960s. This way, changes in political power dynamics are unlikely to impede the forward progress of a space program with considerable momentum.
National Space Policies Still Need Work
Our national space policies are far from perfect, and there is much work yet to be done. But we should remain hopeful about the future of the U.S. space program.
If we adhere to rational and realistic objectives for our space exploration efforts and the values that make our country great, we can reignite the flames stoked by the Apollo era. We can make serious headway in the transition of humans from a planet-bound to a spacefaring species. In addition, we can inspire a new generation of space exploration enthusiasts, who will be ready to meet the challenges that lie beyond our tiny planet.
About the Author
Dr. Gary Deel is a Faculty Director with the School of Business at American Military University. He holds a J.D. in Law and a Ph.D. in Hospitality/Business Management. Gary teaches human resources and employment law classes for American Military University, the University of Central Florida, Colorado State University and others.